Actress-detective Tessa Crichton now answers a call for help from old friend Elsa Carrington, who lives in a quiet village. The problem? Elsa's new neighbor: rich, crass Mrs. Trelawney, owner of Pettit's Farm, who (in response to real or imagined slights) is rapidly making enemies by evicting tenants, chopping up ancient oaks, and snaring animals. Furthermore, Elsa's own children have been affected by the Trelawney rottenness: son Marc wishes Mrs. T. ill because he's infatuated with Diana Hearne, daughter of a large, feckless family threatened with eviction; and adolescent daughter Millie, lumpish of body but sharp of mind, distrusts Diane's martyred sweetness. So, when Mrs. T. is murdered, Marc is a top suspect-especially since his car was seen in the vicinity. But Tessa sets off on the trail of the real murderer, who's such an obvious prospect that one can only wonder at the obtuseness of the police and everyone else. Thin plotting, plentiful padding--and even Tessa's usual charm has a hollow ring this time around.